You can always buy more users, however for the social media app Opinit, which uses emoji icons as a way to leave feedback on posts and images, there's a better way, build something people really want. That strategy has led to user growth of 1066 percent in two weeks since launching on the Apple Store and racking up about 1M "content views" (which are the views one user makes to another) and 100,000 "vibes" (one user rating another) since June. Co-founders Paolo Fidanza and Q. Ladraa told Demo.com the app started out as a project for friends and family about a year ago and spent the last year in development in beta testing with a small group of users.
They decided in June to make the app widely available, then watched as thousands of people started to download it right away. They also noticed how most users raved about the discovery page. There are stories that users can "rank" using five different emojis, such as happy or sad. It's a visual way to engage with other users who are also leaving their opinion visually. After noticing the interest, they decided to make the discovery page the first thing every new user sees in the app. They also made it possible to see posts that fall into the same category.
Interestingly, the founders say Opinit users are 90% female and tend to fall into the 16-24 age group. They have spent nothing so far on marketing. Because of how the app lets people leave a visual opinion and the tweaks they've made, the user counts are still growing. When people find the app, they tend to promote it on social networks like Snapchat and Instagram. The early interest has also caused fashion and lifestyle bloggers to chime in about the app.
Another strategic decision has also pumped up user counts. Unlike most social networks, where you only see content once you befriend other users, Opinit shows fresh content on the discovery page right away from popular users, before you even have anyone to follow. This makes the app feel alive and active even before you start engaging with other people.
To monetize all of this early interest, Opinit plans to build brands into the experience who pay for the privilege. "Premium cable network HBO can develop 5 emojis representing their most popular bad' characters in Games of Thrones, and the audience can "vibe" on the character that they think is the ultimate foe," says Fidanza. "Then, via the vibe map, HBO can see what and where responses originate. This can be the same with McDonald's with their new food menu choices."
It's too early to say whether Opinit will become a genuine hit, rising in the ranks to challenge Snapchat and other mobile apps designed for younger users. People are already "vibing" on it even after two weeks, and that's a sure sign of growth potential.
Note: Traction Watch is a new column focused obsessively on growth, and is a companion to the DEMO Traction conference series, which brings together high-growth startups with high-potential customers. The next DEMO Traction will take place in Boston on September 16, 2015. Growth companies can apply to present, or those similarly obsessed can register here to attend.
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